P is for Panopticon, Maximum Security Quilt appears to be traditional child’s alphabet quilt pattern—a grid of bordered blocks, each containing the appliquéd shape of a letter. The letterforms in this quilt are off kilter, replaced by aerial views of maximum security prisons. I found these aerial views on Josh Begley’s staggering website Prison Map http://prisonmap.com. When one prison on his site resembled an E, I wondered if I could find every letter in the alphabet in his database. I searched and began assembling an alphabet. It was devastatingly simple, with several prisons resembling S’s and many like M’s.
I cut the letter forms from fabrics printed with security envelope patterns from government and corporate correspondence, to locate funding that profits from mass incarceration. I use fabric from uniforms and dress shirts to pose questions about responsibility: individual, governmental and corporate, and bedding for the quilt back, which holds the imprint of the body.
All images copyright of Elizabeth Duffy, 1998-2023